Piranesi's Catalogo delle Opere: a practical requisite rendered in tromphe l'oeil

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“Any attempt to determine the dating and sequence of the majority of Piranesi’s etched works must begin from the artist’s own Calalogo, confined to a single plate. This appears to have been first issued around 1761 when Piranesi set up his print-selling business near the top of the Spanish Steps at Palazzo Tomati, Via Sistina — an address which appears on many of his subsequent plates. In particular the Catalogo is crucial for arriving at the dating and order of the Vedute di Roma and already on the earliest known example presented to the Accademia di San Luca on his election in the spring of 1761, some fifty-nine specific titles are listed. Thence forward until his death in 1778, Piranesi issued revised states of the Catalogo which can be dated approximately by the addition of new publications. At the same time, fresh titles of the Vedute were added, individually or in groups (these were sometimes inserted in ink before being etched). So far, well over twenty-five separate states of this key work have come to light.” — John Wilton-Ely, Piranesi (London, 1978), p. 45.

Recent study of the Catalogo by Andrew Robison, Mellon Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), has identified as many as 31 known states.

Princeton owns three states, as follows:

State IV - copy bound as last leaf in Piranesi’s De Romanorvm magnificentia et architectvra / Della Magnificenza ed architettura de’Romani. (Rome, 1761), call number (Ex) NA310 .P64e. Link to digital image.

State V - held at the Princeton University Art Museum, Prints and Drawings

State XXIV - copy at call number (Ex) 2007-0052E, dating ca. 1776. Link to digital image.

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